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Unique situations sometimes work out just fine. My friend from Atlanta was heading for the Keys and decided to stop in LARGO, borrow some gear, continue on after having dinner with me.  To my surprise he was not traveling alone. He had Chippy with him, the family Yorkie, all of sixteen years and five pounds of him. 

This presented a dinner problem.  He could not stay in the car, we have had a brutally hot summer, he is old but very mild mannered, and lovable.  And restaurants do not permit anything other than a legal service dog indoors. Legal, not the family pet.   

My Solution: Find a place with an outdoor patio and fans. Nothing at any of the corporate places like Outback or Culvers some had outdoors , no shade or fans.  After cruising for an hour finding nothing, I suggested we head for the beach as outdoor patios in beach environments are far more common out there and we might find a sea breeze.

It was getting late, and places were closing, finally we spotted AQUA PRIME, it was open, it had a patio with blowers and the three of us were greeted and welcomed in by a very friendly server, Jessica S.  Cute as a button, smiles and enthusiastic. And yes, Chippy was welcome outside no problem.  She brought the customary water with lemon and a blue pooch dish with water for little Chippy on her own initiative. That ballooned the service score to a five, Chippy agreed and put his paw print on it.

What great fortune as the location was clean and nicely maintained, valet parking, the food was excellent, the house primer, a welcome dish (like chips and salsa)  was unique, Hummus and delicious warm from the oven pita bread triangles, nicely done and I added a touch of Sirachi to the hummus as a kicker.   They had a really nice craft and beer selection, and I chose Stella Artois in very nice generous glasses and we ordered the Blackened Grouper, (a 5) with grilled Veggies (a 5) and Rice with a Mango sauce side for the rice (a 5).   My partner noted that everything was perfect, grouper a favorite Florida fish is one of those things you learn how to cook.  It can go from good to bad in seconds.  And I have had bad on the beach questioning whether it was grouper or not. This was blackened, done perfectly and not pepper hot, a good balance of heat and flavor.

Best beach food I have had in a long time. This was a tough week at other places, many disappointments, where the food was terrible. This was a pleasant stop for the palate and the mind as you felt very comfortable there. Spent an hour and a half, maybe two before he had to hit the road.  It was worth the drive. Can’t say enough about the food, the service, and all the service people even shutting down were friendly and courteous.

Jessica checked on everything, almost caught me literally licking the plate and Johnny Morales the manager came over to say hello, and check on things. It seems they just took over, the emphasis is on great food, quality and service and they get a five on all counts.   For a new team and a new menu coming up, they are off to a good start.

When I was in the corporate world, and during military times  I served both leaders and Generals and the good ones, they always wanted feedback. One General who rose to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in particular, said “ Take off your rank and tell me if anything in this plan might backfire”.   In military parlance this is called “rank off”.  In Journalism it’s call “off the record”. 

I learned a lot from that.  I do a sneaky thing when checking out a new place, I always ask the help in a discreet way, “How is it working for the boss, how are you treated”.   I consider management the heart of any operation.  I learn a lot that way about a place and the three places in the last month that were terrible, had one thing in common, negative or said nothing feedback from the help.  

One place so bad in cleanliness, food preparation and things most people would miss, prompted an eMail to the health code people as a public service.   When your people are not happy, and roll their eyes, the food will suffer.  Everyone at Aqua Prime was positive and motivated and seemed to be proud of the feedback, and their product indicative of good management, good training.

The Finale:  Once again Jessica twisted our arms and we split  a Coconut white cake with creme and Raspberry drip.  That sealed the deal folks, the finishing touch...great place, and I’m impressed which hasn’t happened that often lately. This is new management  and a new team but off to a very good start.

Errata: The new menu is almost complete and I will post some of the new dishes with full pictures shortly. I went back last night to retrieve a lost object which they held for us and we ate there again.  Consistent and my lady friend loved the place.  I’m going again and photos will be present shortly.   The service was great, Ben took care of us, this time and the attention to customers needs is high on their list.  The back outdoor patio has live music, the atmosphere friendly, foods great, what else does one need.
They have a wonderful website and menu at:

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